I refer to is as “surveillance”. A private investigator parks near your house or some other location where they suspect you will be. Once they see you, they observe you. They follow you around and takes pictures and video of you.
You have probably heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Unfortunately, this can be true in your workers compensation case.
When they hire a private investigator, the insurance company hopes to get pictures of you doing something you should not be doing. Then, they show these pictures or videos to your doctor. Based on this, they try to get the doctor to say you are not hurt.
If your case goes to court, the insurance company will often present these pictures and videos to the judge.
Can you do anything to prevent the insurance company from hiring a private investigator?
No. There is not really anything you can do.
The best way to prevent the insurance company from hiring a private investigator is to just make sure you only do what you should be doing. The insurance company has to pay for a private investigator. They will probably not spend a lot of money on one if they are not getting the information they way.
The difficult thing about only doing what you should be doing is that you still have to live even if you have an injury. You may still have to get groceries, cut your grass, or keep up your house.
Injuries make it difficult to do these things, but they do not necessarily make them impossible. So, you decide to get out and cut the grass because it has to be done. Then, the insurance company takes a video of you cutting the grass. That video shows you cutting the grass, but it does not show the pain you were in after cutting the grass.
Will I lose my case if the insurance company gets pictures of me cutting the grass or grocery shopping?
Not necessarily. There is no certain effect that these videos have on doctors or judges. The doctor may see the video and say that it is not a big deal.
But, the doctor may think the video shows behavior that you should not be doing if you are hurting. As I mentioned earlier, a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words. That can especially apply to workers compensation surveillance because it can be very difficult to explain away the effect a video many have on a doctor or a judge.
You may be able to get the doctor or judge to understand that you only did the activity observed on the video for a short time. But, you would rather not find yourself in that situation to begin with. The more a video shows you doing, the more difficult it will be to explain the activity to a doctor or judge.
Should I just lock myself up in my house and close my blinds so they cannot get pictures of me?
While you could do this, it is not the choice I would make. Sure, there is less chance that a private investigator will take videos of you if you are locked up in your house. But, this is not a life I would want to live.
In most workers’ compensation cases, your doctor makes recommendations about what you should and should not do. If you follow the recommendations from the doctor, you should be okay. Where most people get in trouble is that they do something that exceeds the doctor’s recommendations.
Are there rules that apply to private investigators?
Yes. Private investigators are bound by certain rules that apply to them as private investigators. They also have to follow Georgia’s laws. Some private investigators will have rules that apply to them because of other organizations of which they are a member.
If private investigators do not follow these rules, they could get in trouble. If you think a private investigator violated some rule, you should definitely do some research. In Georgia, the Georgia Board of Private Detective and Security Agencies licenses private investigators.
How do those rules apply to your workers compensation case? One way these rules apply is by controlling where the private investigator can go to film you.
The private investigator should not come onto private property without permission. Suppose you live on a large parcel of property. The private investigator may find it difficult to take pictures or videos of you at home.
But, you should remember that the technology for camera and video equipment has improved a lot recently. Private investigators can take pictures and videos from far away to document your activities. You will not necessarily know that a private investigator is even around.